Archive for October, 2021

    Hiding in Plain Sight: Females with ASD

    Anna Missner (GU ’22) October 25, 2021

    One aspect of disability that warrants attention is the sex disparity in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses. One in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD, and for every four males diagnosed, only one female is (CDC, n.d.). While part of this discrepancy can be attributed to biological differences between males and females that protect females from ASD, the disparity is exacerbated by biases in diagnostic measures and the perception of ASD as a male disorder. As a result, many females with ASD, particularly those without co-occurring intellectual disabilities (ID), and thus more mild manifestations of ASD, remain undiagnosed.

    Females are likely biologically protected from ASD, though the reason for this is not entirely known. Some postulate that the hormone testosterone underlies many characteristics of ASD, and females have less testosterone than males, resulting in less ASD among females (Hull et al., 2020). Another explanation is that the X chromosome is protective against ASD, and because females have one more X chromosome than males, females are more protected from ASD (Hull et al., 2020). However, a specific protective gene on the X chromosome has yet to be found (Hull et al., 2020). Thus, while female biology likely plays some role in protecting them from ASD, the reasons for this effect are not entirely known.

    While biology plays a role in the ASD diagnostic sex disparity, biases and the perception of ASD as a male disorder greatly perpetuate the discrepancy. Ratto et al. (2019) and Lundstrom et al. (2019) found that females must have more ASD symptoms than males to meet the criteria on the ASD diagnostic measures most commonly used today, such as the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI). Thus, research by Ratto et al. (2019) and Lundstrom et al. (2019) reveal that females must have a stronger manifestation of ASD than males to obtain a diagnosis, suggesting that females with more mild symptoms of ASD, such as those without co-occurring ID, remain undiagnosed. Researchers attribute these findings to the fact that the ASD diagnostic measures most commonly used today were developed based on predominantly male samples. Therefore, these measures are skewed towards detecting a male type of ASD. While females with strong symptomology or a prototypical male manifestation of ASD meet the criteria on these diagnostic measures, females with different patterns of ASD or less severe symptoms are missed by these diagnostic measures.

    The ASD diagnostic sex disparity can result in poor mental health among females that remain undiagnosed in addition to missed opportunities for early intervention. Females with ASD who remain undiagnosed may feel alienated and confused, resulting in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Hull et al., 2020). These females also miss the opportunity for early intervention, which is the most crucial and effective time to intervene. By spreading awareness of the ASD diagnostic sex disparity, I hope to shift the current perception of ASD to include both males and females.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (n.d.) “Data and statistics on autism spectrum disorder.”

    Hull, L., Petrides, K. V., & Mandy, W. (2020). The female autism phenotype and camouflaging: A narrative review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1-12. doi:/10.1007/s40489-020-00197-9.

    Lundstrom, S., Marland, C., Kuja-Halkola, R., Anckarsater, H., Lichtenstein, P., Gillberg, C., & Nilsson, T. (2019). Assessing autism in females: The importance of a sex-specific comparison. Psychiatry Research, 282, 1-4. doi:/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112566.

    Ratto, A. B., Kensworthy, L., Yerys, B. E., Bascom, J., Wieckowski, A. T., White, S. W., Wallace, G. L., Pugliese, C., Schultz, R. T., Ollendick, T. H., Scarpa, A., Seese, S., Register-Brown, K., Martin, A., & Anthony, L. G. (2018). What about the girls? Sex-based differences in autistic traits and adaptive skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(5), 1698-1711. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3413-9.

    Anna Missner (GU ’22)

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    COVID-19’s Impact on Special Education

    Anny Angel (GU ’21), Bella Carlucci (GU ’23), Sela Dragich (GU ’21), Jonathan Kay (GU ’21), Hannan Moallin (GU ’22), & Taylor Villante (GU ‘21) October 04, 2021

    The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 has resulted in a complete shift to remote learning, which has posed an incredible set of challenges for educators, students, families, and caregivers. This post focuses on the unique challenges and impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and families who receive Special Education Services in schools. An international CARING through COVID Online Survey assessed the impact the COVID-19 stay at home orders has had on the access to educational and medical services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) and their respective caregivers. These stay-at-home orders caused a substantial loss in access to educational supports and services, with 74% of the parents reporting that their child lost access to at least one therapy or educational service (Jeste et al., 2020). The results from this survey reveal the particular impact of the reduction in access to in-person educational services for all students on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Many individuals with IDDs receive special education services and interventions including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral support within their academic setting. The loss of these supports impacts not only the child, but also caregivers who relied on schools’ provision of services for their students (Jeste et al., 2020). The isolation caused by the pandemic have also caused challenges for families of children who receive special education services (Toseeb et al., 2020). Many families who usually rely on established relationships and professional support through schools had to figure out other ways to meet their child’s unique educational needs when certain in-person therapies via schools were halted entirely in the pandemic. A study in the UK entitled Supporting Families with Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities During COVID-19 focused on finding the most important support needs during lockdown, and during the transition back to in-person learning. Families expressed many needs but creating an established routine and providing mental health resources were identified as families’ most-needed supports (Toseeb et at., 2020).

    Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about great difficulties for all families and students receiving special education services, some school districts planned and communicated effectively to provide SPED services relatively smoothly in a virtual environment. The rural Commerce Independent School District (CISD) in northeast Texas implemented effective communication, collaboration, professional development and resource distribution, compliance, and effective translation of state and federal guidelines to continue providing special education services via online instruction, take-home packets, Zoom meetings, and telehealth services (Tremmel et al., 2020). CISD sets a positive example that other rural, under-resourced districts may follow to effectively provide special education services to maximize caregiver and student engagement and ultimately reduce the gap of learning outcomes between students with and without disabilities. It is vital for school districts to receive feedback from families, special education professionals, and students themselves in order to provide adequate support to meet the needs of students with disabilities and their families during this difficult time. As schools transition back to in-person learning, it is extremely important for schools to prioritize the social, emotional, and academic support for students receiving special education resources.

    Anny Angel (GU ’21), Bella Carlucci (GU ’23), Sela Dragich (GU ’21), Jonathan Kay (GU ’21), Hannan Moallin (GU ’22), and Taylor Villante (GU ‘21


    Jeste, S., Hyde, C., Distefano, C., Halladay, A., Ray, S., Porath, M., ... & Thurm, A. (2020). Changes in access to educational and healthcare services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities during COVID‐19 restrictions. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 64(11), 825-833.

    Toseeb, U., Asbury, K., Code, A., Fox, L., & Deniz, E. (2020, April 21). Supporting Families with Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities During COVID-19.

    Tremmel, P., Myers, R., Brunow, D. A., & Hott, B.L. (2020). Educating Students With Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned From Commerce Independent School District. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 39(4), 201-210.

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